New Study Reveals Reading Aloud to Kids Does Matter

Parents may think twice about skipping nighttime stories aloud after learning the results of Scholastic's latest study, the fifth edition of the Kids & Family Reading Report.

The biannual national survey examined a child's reading behavior and attitude toward reading. The updated survey included 2,558 parents and children (between the ages of 0 and 17). Study results determined early literacy was important, especially when parents read aloud to their children during their first five years.

More than half the children ages 0 to 5 (54 percent) were read aloud to at home between 5 and 7 days a week. The number declined to 34 percent when kids were ages 6 to 8, and then 17 percent when kids were ages 9 to 11. Although most parents (86 percent) acknowledged the importance of reading and wanted their children to enjoy reading for fun, most parents had stopped reading aloud to their kids once they could read independently. But 40 percent of children ages 6 to 11 actually wished their parents still read aloud to them.

Researchers also explored how a child's reading patterns later in life, whether they would become frequent or infrequent readers. Frequent readers included children who read for fun 5 to 7 days a week while infrequent readers read less than once a week. For older kids, especially boys, reading enjoyment also dropped after the age of 8 because of interest in other activities. But for kids between ages 6 to 17 who were frequent readers, several factors contributed to their love for reading, which included having parents who were frequent readers and who read aloud to them often, starting at an early age.

The findings also concluded that independent reading at school is crucial. 52 percent of children surveyed said reading independently at school was one of their favorite parts of the day. And reading time at school was especially important for children from low-income families, with 61 percent of children (between ages 6 to 17) from low-income households saying they read books for fun mostly in school.

So how can parents instill a lasting love of reading in their children? Lead by example early on! If you introduce books at an early age, your child will know you're an avid reader and she'll likely mirror your behavior. Reading is also the key to improving vocabulary and inspiring imagination, so why not encourage consistent reading habits? Just because a child is able to read independently doesn't mean you have to stop reading aloud together -- make time to read together in fun, entertaining voices, and she'll never put a book down. We live in a time where tablets and smartphones rule our world and children are becoming addicted to this technology at a much earlier age. Reading, then, is a perfect, "screen-free" alternative.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She's a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

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Image: Family reading via Shutterstock

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